You’re killing me Smalls! These are s'more’s stuff! Ok, pay attention. First you take the graham, you stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the ‘mallow. When the 'mallows flaming… you stick it on the chocolate. Then cover with the other end. Then you scarf. Kind of messy, but good! Try some!
Imagine Maggie as a softball coach, teaching kids how to throw, how to catch, pushing them to improve their skills, taking the team out for pizza after games, making sure that they remember winning's great, but not the most important thing, listening to problems when necessary, and basically being the coach you still talk about after you've grown up. All the kids insist on vetting Alex after she shows up at one of their practices, because they have to make sure she's awesome enough for Maggie.
It’s not like she’s swimming in free time, but she can’t
resist the kids.
The kids with the big eyes and uncoordinated runs, who want
to play softball but don’t want to be separated along gender lines from their
friends; who don’t want to be chewed out by people three times their age for
missing a catch; who want to be part of something, but don’t want to go through
the ritualistic humiliation that is most organized sports to get it.
So every Saturday, without fail, her work phone is off. Her
captain knows; her captain approves.
I think he might be… you know… in your community, he
tells her out of the side of his mouth one day about his nine year old son, and
she immediately takes the boy onto the team.
Every Saturday, she pulls her ponytail through the back of a
beat up Brooklyn Dodgers cap, and trades in her boots for cleats, and slings
two bags more than half her height over her back, full of bats and balls and
mitts and caps and water bottles and other assorted treats for the horde of
nine year olds who stream onto the field she’s reserved just for them in
varying states of readiness, varying states of dress (sometimes in skirts,
sometimes in older sibling’s baseball jerseys, once – memorably – in a rabbit
onesie because it’s Purim, okay, and who says rabbits can’t play softball?),
varying states of excitement to get away from their parents, their homes, their
schools, for a few solid hours under the California sun.
The only thing she doesn’t accept on the field is giving up;
but she does accept anxiety and she does accept tears, because whoever said
there’s no crying in baseball clearly has never played softball with a band of
misfit kids who spend so much of their time trying to be perfect that sometimes
it takes a while for them to realize that on this field, with these kids, with
this coach, they can revel in their uniqueness, in their imperfections.
She has a system worked out for their little bodies slipping
into existential crises: the swing set nearby. She holds the crying kid,
whoever it may be at the time, and she rocks them, and she wipes their tears
and she gives them a bottle of water and some animal crackers, and she sends
them with two friends – always two friends – off to the swing set for a few
minutes, so they can swing the sad away.
She keeps on eye on the ball and the other on them, and they
always sprint back with smiles and giggles, ready to keep going, ready to learn
more, ready to be more.
So she teaches them to throw and she teaches them to hit;
she teaches them to move their hips right along with the rest of their bodies,
and most importantly, she teaches them to let go. To let go of what everyone’s
ever told them about perfection, about winning, about success, about their
self-worth. Because each of them are stardust, and doesn’t that sound cooler
than defining themselves by winners and losers.
They run drills and they support each other when the ball
trickles through someone’s feet and they eagerly shout me me me me me!
when Maggie stands at home plate with a bat in one hand and a ball in the
other, knees bent and ready to aim a hit at each of them in turn.
They play against the other local teams, and even though
they don’t always win, they always shock the smug-looking parents and coaches
of the other teams, and they always win over some new friends – with the more
expensive uniforms and pressure to win constantly on their backs – because they
always look like they’re having more fun, like they’re feeling more confident,
than anyone else to ever step onto the field.
And the first time Alex Danvers steps onto the field,
Maggie’s spare cap backwards on her head and a red bandana sticking out of her
back pocket and a nervous but thrilled grin on her face, they decide that they
need to interrogate this pretty new lady holding Maggie’s hand and helping her
carry her bags.
Because Maggie’s never held another girl’s hand before in
front of them before, and she’s certainly never let anyone carry her bags for
“Everyone, this is my girlfriend, Alex. Alex, this is the
They all form a line, squinting up at her and trying their
best to look intimidating, and Alex is forcibly reminded of that Sandlot movie
Kara made her watch over and over when they were kids.
She glances at Maggie, who’s regarding them gravely, and she
follows her girlfriend’s lead, biting down her amusement and contorting her
face into seriousness as she squats down on her haunches to be more on their
“You all seem like you have something to say to me,” she
says, doing her best to not address them like they’re nine, but rather, like
they’re a threat to her physical safety.
A girl with Bantu knots and a serious set to her jaw steps
forward and gestures at Alex with her red glove.
“Coach Maggie told us she was bringing someone special to meet
us. Coach never brings anyone special to meet us.”
“Yeah, even though we’re pretty sure you’re not the first
girl she’s dated. She’s pretty pretty!”
“Shhh Andy, let Chase talk, we all agreed!”
Maggie closes her eyes to keep from doubling over with laughter
and Alex reminds herself that she can beat a polygraph test.
“So we just want to make sure you’re really special enough
“Because Coach Maggie’s the best!”
“She brings us for pizza after every game!”
“Even when we lose!”
“And she told off Janelle’s parents when they tried to tell
her she couldn’t wear a tie or shop in the boy’s section!”
“Yeah, and look how fabulous I look now!”
“And she – ”
“Order on the field!”
Alex’s eyes open wide and wonders if in a decade or so,
Chase would be interested in a job at the DEO.
“So,” Chase continues happily when silence falls
immediately. “Tell us why you’re special enough for her. What are your
intentions with the best coach ever to coach?”
Maggie bites her lip and stares down at Alex for a moment
before squatting next to her.
“Guys, you’re like the inquisition, Alex doesn’t have to – ”
“No, no, Maggie, it’s fine. I love how much they love you.”
She looks squarely at Chase, then at each of the children in turn as she takes
a deep breath and speaks.
“And you’re right: Maggie only deserves the most
special things and the most special people. Because – and you guys all already
know this – she is so, so special. And she’s special to me. The most special. I
ask myself the same question every day, you know: am I special enough for her?
And honestly? I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone can ever be special enough
for Maggie Sawyer. Except maybe you guys, but that’s different. And as for my
She turns to look at Maggie and puts a hand on her knee, and
Maggie immediately puts her hand on hers to steady herself, because her heart
is in her throat and her eyes are watering at Alex’s words.
“My intentions with the best coach ever to coach – the best
girlfriend ever to girlfriend – are to try, ever day, to be special enough for
her. To care for her – to love her – better than she’s ever been loved. Every
day, every night, and every moment in between.
“Ally.” Maggie’s whisper is barely a breath, and it’s almost
lost in the whisper-shouting conferring of intensely defensive nine year olds.
After a few long moments of staring into each other’s eyes,
a few long moments during which the softball team confers with each other in
the consensus-driven style Maggie taught them, Chase nods and clears her throat
for Alex’s attention.
“Dr. Danvers, would you like to play ball with us today? We’re
going to learn how to slide into second base, and we think it’d be great if you
learned with us.”
Maggie beams and kisses Alex’s hand as Alex shakes Chase’s
with her other one.